Research Based Tips For Weight Control, Part I

Research Based Tips For Weight Control, Part I

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

The findings from hundreds of studies in the last couple of decades boil down to this: the fast food culture, super size meals and beverages, lack of physical activity and exercise, sit-down jobs for increasingly longer hours and high stress level, play a major role in the epidemic of obesity we witness today.

Food tastes good enhanced with the undisclosed chemicals the food industry adds for taste addiction. Food is cheap. It's available everywhere and anywhere. It comes in ever-larger sizes. We have a mind that says, "Eat whenever and wherever you want it."

Here are some of the biological and psychological factors that contribute to obesity: failure of the brain to immediately receive cues for satiation, misinterpreting abdominal sensation for hunger and missing the stomach signals of fullness.

Have you wondered why some can eat enormous amounts of food and still not feel full? The reason for that could be familial, emotional or environmental.

As regards the familial factors, perhaps you were born into a family, which ate large portions. As a child, you were given larger portions because that was the "normal" amount your parents thought you should have. Or, when you chugged the fifth can of coke of the day, your parents thought nothing of that. It wasn't the kind of thing for which they would've put their foot down and shown you who was in charge. Thus, you might have learned to override the feeling of fullness very early on in your life.

Emotional factors are a little more complex. Based on one's emotional experiences and the personal support and resources available at the time, the individual may one day "discover" food as a means to control or to assuage unpleasant and disagreeable feelings. In order to increasingly use food as a way to cope with, maintain control over or, anesthetize unpleasant and disagreeable feelings, one learns to override the feeling of fullness in spite of being "full to the brim."

As regards the environmental factors, let's not underestimate the power of the "culture of food" in our society. We live in a strong food culture. We have a very smart food industry. Food marketers conduct their own research. They know they can manipulate the amount of food we eat by increasing or decreasing the size of the food package. They know by giving people larger portions repeatedly, consumers would come to expect it and begin to depend on larger portions.

Behavioral studies suggest that access to big portions can override our natural sense of feeling the stomach fullness. As a result we can eat larger amounts and still not feel full.

In summary, for familial, emotional or environmental reasons, we succeed in disconnecting our mind from the stomach. As a result, the mind doesn't receive signals of fullness. Normally, as the sensation of taste, smell and food texture reach the brain, they contribute to our feeling of satiation. But, when the mind is disconnected and disenfranchised, it's difficult to feel satiated.

I believe that it's highly important that we reconnect the mind with the entire process of eating. I call it, "mindful eating."

Get into the habit of reading labels of everything you consume. By reading labels, I don't just mean the total number of calories and fat calories, but the entire description of nutritional facts.

Someone once said, the more obese the people become, the more ignorant they are about the food they take in their bodies. According to this researcher, morbidly obese people are more "food ignorant" than the obese.

One has to bring under control the pattern of eating "anytime, anywhere" because it fosters the habit of mindless eating.

Here are some more tips about mindful eating:

  • At home, eat only at the designated place, which supposedly is your dining table. Whenever you eat, sit down. Standing, walking or driving while eating fosters the habit of mindless eating.
  • Eat at scheduled times as far as possible. People tend to sacrifice their scheduled eating time for unscheduled activities.
  • When you eat, eating should be the only activity you do. This obviously precludes multitasking such as writing checks, reading, watching TV or talking on the phone while eating.
  • Eat slowly and chew the food into a pulp.
  • Take the next bite only after you've swallowed the food that was already in the mouth.
  • Until you develop a strong mind-stomach connection, eat with full awareness and concentration, that is, mentally registering the whole process from putting the food into the mouth, chewing it and swallowing it down.
  • In order to develop proper control over eating, mindfulness about eating or any other behavior, you have to be totally non-judgmental. You can't be criticizing, chastising and disliking yourself and still be able to observe yourself accurately. When negative emotions or any type of emotional excitement gets hold of a person, his or her faculty of self-observation is significantly compromised.
  • One more tip: When we eat as a group, we tend to eat 75% more than our usual.

Research Based Tips For Weight Control, Part II
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Copyright 2004, Mind Publications 
Posted April 2004


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